Monday, February 18, 2013

Mercedes-Benz SLS

If you're about to pop out and buy a Mercedes SLS, may we suggest a brief pause to read this review first? Because AMG has just launched an updated SLS, slightly confusingly called the SLS GT, and the revisions make the ‘normal' SLS feel a bit, well... normal. Or as ordinary as any gull-winged coupe can be.

The GT gets a new inlet manifold releasing an extra 20bhp, which helps drop the 0-62mph time by 0.1 seconds to 3.7. There are also revisions to the gearbox software and the suspension. These sound like minor changes, so is it actually any better? In short, yes. The key alteration is the gearbox software - both upshifts and downshifts on the dual-clutch gearbox are now quicker, by as much as 60 per cent. In auto, the 'box blends shifts more deftly- so the GT cruises better - yet in manual mode the changes are snappier and the throttle response sharper - so the car feels much more interactive. Overall, the GT broadens the SLS's appeal.

It's still not perfect. There are times when the manual mode isn't actually completely manual because it refuses to change up when you want it to. Let's say you're pottering around town and the engine is ticking over at 2,000rpm - the 'box won't let you shift up to make the motor more relaxed. Merc says there are durability reasons for this odd programming, which is fair enough, but with all this power and, crucially, torque on offer (583bhp and 479lb ft), we feel it could afford to be a tiny bit more relaxed about it.

The suspension alterations have also helped. The springs and dampers have all changed, and there's no comfort setting on the adjustable dampers, but don't panic - this hasn't made the ride worse. All the changes have apparently done is sharpen up the car, so the nose turns in better and the rear feels more secure. The net effect? The SLS is now ever so slightly better at the dual roles of... er... GT and sports car.

On the outside, there are some subtle visual tweaks, like darker light surrounds and black fins in the side gills. Inside, the carbon-fibre dash has been replaced with piano black, and there are still seven shift lights in between the dials. So, yes, the styling changes are very minor, but it's not like there was much wrong with the SLS in the first place anyway.

Most buyers will probably plump for the GT version just because it's the most expensive. And in the USA, Mercedes-Benz will now only sell the GT. The exact cost hasn't been confirmed for the UK yet, but it's likely to be about £180,000, or roughly £12,000 more than the standard car (which will continue to be sold here). So it's not a cheap option, but it is the better car. Our advice: go pricey.

Piers Ward
The numbers
6208cc, V8, RWD, 583bhp, 479lb ft, 21.4mpg, 308g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 3.7secs, 199mph, 1695kg

The verdict
 A series of minor alterations from AMG add up to make the SLS more drivable than ever. The GT is the SLS you'll want.